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Meris Cherian
Meris Cherian

Art & Culture

5 things to know about Frida Kahlo on her birthday

To the woman with pet monkeys and parrots. To the woman who sang corriodos. To the woman with the sterling wit... Happy Birthday, Frida!

  • Frida Kahlo has given us more than 200 paintings and drawings, lived an extraordinary life, full of art, creativity and passion. She drew out her life of pain, her troubled marriage with Diego and her inability to have children.

A little more than a century after her birth, today, we celebrate the Bohemian beauty, one of Mexico's greatest artists and re-constructionist, Frida Kahlo, born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon. Known for her striking self portraits that showed off her bushy, thick eyebrows that came to meet right above her nose, Frida Kahlo is also remembered for paintings that mirror her life and reflect a predominant Mexican culture. Her husband, prominent Mexican painter and muralist, Diego Rivera described her iconic eyebrows as 'the wings of a blackbird, their black arches framing two extraordinary brown eyes'. Frida Kahlo has given us more than 200 paintings and drawings, lived an extraordinary life, full of art, creativity and passion. She drew out her life of pain, her troubled marriage with Diego, her inability to have children. Her life was in her paintings, and her paintings were her life.

To the woman with pet monkeys and parrots. To the woman who sang corriodos. To the woman with the sterling wit... Happy Birthday, Frida!

1. Frida Kahlo was a hard-core, politically outspoken Mexican

Though Frida was born on July 6, 1907, it is said that she always insisted on having July 7, 1910, as her birth date. Why, because that was the date of the outbreak of the Mexican revolution. Mexico, her homeland, was more like her nurturer. Mexico, and its heritage and culture, was deeply ingrained in her—and in her paintings too.

2. Frida Kahlo began painting only very late in life

You would think that Kahlo started painting as a child, or that she was a child prodigy but the truth is far from that. It was only during her recuperation times that Frida started to take painting seriously. She had no formal training in the arts, other than a few art classes taken in school. But with her father's help, who was an artist himself, she experimented with and developed her artistic skills.

3. Frida Kahlo’s right leg was thinner than her left after contracting polio at six

Which is one reason she wore long Tehuana dresses, to conceal the lower part of her body. And then later on in her 20's, her leg was fractured in 11 places as a result of a horrific bus accident. In her 40's, her right lower leg was amputated due to gangrene. Frida had a prosthetic leg designed with embroidered red lace-up boots, attached with a little bell.

4. Frida Kahlo's accident left her in a full body cast Paramedics who arrived at the scene of the accident did not expect Frida to live, since she suffered serious injuries as a result of a steel handrail from the bus she was travelling in penetrating her abdomen. She had a broken spinal column, broken ribs and a collarbone, fractures in her right leg, a dislocated shoulder, etc. to name a few. She had to be in a full body cast for three months, recovering in excruciating pain.

5. Frida Kahlo had a recipe for creating colours and pigments Not only did Kahlo develop a recipe for a paint medium using damar gum (which is a kind of resin into which pigment is added to produce the final paint), she even has meaning of colours that she uses in her paintings. In her words, from her diary, she says about black, 'nothing is black', she talks of greenish yellow, as 'more madness and mystery... all the ghosts wear clothes of this colour, or at least their underclothes', and of yellow as the colour of 'madess, sickness, fear. Part of the sun and of joy'.

And after Frida Kahlo died in 1954, in the same house she was born 'La Casa Azul' (The Blue House), all her belongings were shut in a bathroom in that house, until her husband Diego Rivera died. La Casa Azul now is a museum of everything Frida, housing her works of art, souvenirs and artifacts from her personal life—from that long Tehuana dresses, to her body casts and corsets—it's as though she still lives in there, even though Frida Kahlo hoped to never return.

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Topics : #Frida Kahlo | #art | #Mexico

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